Yesterday I went bowling alone, and I enjoyed it immensely. I was in Evansville, Indiana, with my son Dru and his friend Christian who were in a bouldering competition. I had a couple hours to kill before the comp actually started, so I puttered around Barnes & Noble and then went bowling. Around the fourth frame of the third game, I thought about the book, Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam, which describes the decline of community in America since 1950. But I was really enjoying my time bowling alone! And then I thought of Jesus and how he often got away from the crowds to be in solitude.
It may be surprising to hear a community junkie like me say this, but I believe that being in community and being in solitude are equally vital for our spiritual and emotional health. They form a symbiotic relationship. As the church today we are doing a great job promoting community, but a poor job promoting solitude.
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community . . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone . . . Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants to fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.